Carl-Zeiss Loxia 21 vs Tokina FiRIN 20 - battle of the wide angle primes

Started Jan 22, 2017 | Discussions thread
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joger Veteran Member • Posts: 7,398
Carl-Zeiss Loxia 21 vs Tokina FiRIN 20 - battle of the wide angle primes

We live in interesting times due to many reasons. The Sony FE system is still a comparable young system and quite a few things are missing e.g. a selection of moderate and fast tele primes or small and lightweight and affordable AF zooms - but in some areas it's getting quite busy these days. There is surely no lack of short primes and fast primes out there.

For me only lenses with full EXIF transmission are relevant with only one exception - my Leica APO-Telyt 135 M wich is my longest travel lens. On the short end my Voigtlaender Heliar 15 mm III serves me extremely well and at portraiture focal lengths the 50 mm ZA and the 85 GM from Sony are IMHO unbeatable.

I don’t have any problem using a slower wide angle lens since I tend to use these lenses anyway at f/8 till f/11. But since we’ve got faster options around I am very pleased to have options. The faster a lens gets the more options the photographer has. One of the biggest advantages is that at working apertures you’re already stopped down a bit and thus you explore the full capabilities of a lens while others have to shoot wide open with their slower lenses especially with zooms. So far the theory and you may start to get an idea which lens I’d have liked to win this competition.
One big trick is that with the modern primes including electronic coupling you can get a rather small package with ML.
So I wondered which of the relevant 2X mm offerings is best for my style of shooting. I got my Tokina FiRIN 20 one week ago and the rented Carl-Zeiss Loxia 21 yesterday. I thought it would be nice to share some results with you and my personal verdict. To give you a hint - both of the lenses will go back to the dealer and to the rental company but one will return permanently.

Loxia 21 f/2.8 vs FiRIN 20 f/2.0

My workflow is the following: RAW 14-bit lossles, tripod and remote release, EFCS, IBIS turned off, manual focussing on the same point in the image with 12x magnification, sharpening and auto setting for brightness - finally 1:1 preview at the very same point in the images - these are the points where I have focussed at.
Here are some results:

click on original for 100 % view - close object wide open

click on original for 100 % view - close object stopped down

click on original for 100 % view - wall focussed - close object wide open

click on original for 100 % view - close object wide open

click on original for 100 % view - further away wall

click on original for 100 % view - room corner

click on original for 100 % view - landscape

My verdict:
1.) Sharpness wide open

The FiRIN 20 is at closer focus objects much less sharp and has less punch compare the the Loxia 21. At far away objects the FiRIN 20 is as sharp as the Loxia 21 wide open and closed down. In fact closed down I’d give the FiRIN 20 a slight advantage over the Loxia 21. This was a real surprise for me and has surely something to do with the setup of the lenses.

2.) Sharpness stopped down

At f/5.6 till f/11 the FiRIN 20 offers a more balanced sharpness and better DOF across the frame at a similar contrast as the Loxia 21 but only by a tiny bit - close objects are not as sharp as the Loxia.

3.) Size and weight

There is no doubt that the FiRIN 20 is larger and heavier than the Loxia 21 - but it is very close in size and weight and it is roughly 3/5 the price and offers one stop more brightness and thus a shallower Depth of field - as said before with (super) wide angle lenses I really doubt the advantage of a shallow DOF but it is always good to have options - especially when they come for free.

4.) Ergonomics

I really start to hate the position of the aperture ring of the Loxia lineup. The engineers from Carl-Zeiss must have a reason for doing that but I find it rather cumbersome to fiddle around at the narrowest position of the camera - I really appreciate Tokina, Voigtlaender and Leica putting the aperture ring on the front of the lens where you have enough space to easily grab the ring, Also you don’t touch by accident the focal ring as you do with the Loxia lenses. No show stopper but annoying enough to talk about it.

5.) Mechanics

No doubt the Loxia 21 wins hands down. A masterpiece in mechanical stability. Full metal construction with a subtle click when you reach the hard stop when focussing - unfortunately the hard stop is at infinity while wit the FiRIN 20 you can focus beyond infinity which is very positive since temperature and tolerances can add up and thus the infinity setting might not be the right setting. I guess many complaints for the CV 15 have their origin in this fact. The FiRIN 20 is quite close to the construction of the Loxia but dosen’t reach the finesse and beauty of the Carl-Zeiss contender. That said the FiRIN 20 is a nice and IMHO welcome addition to the crowded short focal length offerings on the market.Both lenses make some noise when turning the focus ring - the Loxia sounds bit louder than the FiRIN - could be metal on metal inside vs plastic. I could imagine that the FiRIN could wear out a bit in a longer period - pure speculation from my side though - nothing I would worry about when considering such a lens for 15+ years - maybe in case you intend to keep it for longer

Over all conclusion

All in all I’d have liked to recommend the FiRIN 20 and I had voted with my money for this Tokina lens that needs to be returend now and I hope the return policy in Germany works out well. I love compact lightweight MF lenses for traveling and I love good ergonomics. That’s why the FiRIN would have been my preferred choice due to the aperture ting at the front of the lens but the Loxia 21 is definitely the better lens.
I hope you like the provided information and I hope the samples help you in case you’re in the markt for such a lens.
The focal length of 20 vs 21 mm is negligible IMHO - especially when you apply a lens profile in post processing you’ll lose some field of view and the 20 easily becomes a 21 mm lens while the 21 becomes more like a 22 mm lens. There is currently no profile for the FiRIN 20 in LR available but I am sure that one of the next LR releases gets a decent profile to cope with the vignetting and slight geometric distortion.
Please feel free to comment and to ask questions. This is purely for information and of course my own opinion - just as everyone is entitled to have his/her opinion - you can’t go really wrong with either of these lenses but for me the Loxia 21 get’s the better over all rating due to the better performance.

I definitely excluded the Batis 18 from my selection because it is too big and bulky in the travel bag - and my Voigtlaener 15 cropped down mimics the results of this lens pretty well enough - no need for AF anyway at such a setup. tested here

Here are the images a bit bigger to see some sample results:

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